Issue: Winter 2024

The Cat & Fiddle: England in Hollywood

For more than 40 years, The Cat & Fiddle has served as Hollywood’s unofficial British embassy. At this cozy pub—now located on Highland Avenue—families and rock stars rub shoulders and enjoy pints and British staples like fish and chips. 

The story of  The Cat & Fiddle begins with Kim Gardner, a British bassist who came to America as part of the 1960s British rock invasion. Gardner played with many English groups, most prominently the English band The Birds (Not to be confused with the American band, The Byrds) with future Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood. While rock ‘n roll would always be Gardner’s passion, it was in 1982 that he discovered his true calling: creating an English pub in Hollywood.

Kim and Paula had first met in New Orleans, and moved to LA. By chance, some friends had a restaurant space in Laurel Canyon. Although it was a busy time for the Gardners—not only did the couple have a three-year-old daughter, but Paula was pregnant with twins. Still, The Cat & Fiddle opened in October 1982, and soon became popular with the city’s Brits and the entertainment community. The twins were born two weeks later.

By 1984, the Cat had become a little too popular. It was hard for patrons to find a seat in the small bar, and the bar’s neighbors weren’t happy with the traffic and late night noise. According to Paula Gardner, there was also a zoning issue that became a problem. “It was not zoned properly and technically it was supposed to be an ice cream parlor,” says Paula.  

Again, a friend at their bank told the Gardners about a restaurant space opening on Sunset Boulevard. The 1920s Spanish-style plaza had been built by silent film cowboy Fed Thompson, and had been home to several restaurants over the years including the Chinese restaurant Mouling. “When we married we bought a little book of coupons that had coupons for cleaners and restaurants and one of them was for this space. When we walked in, we said “Oh my god, we’ve been here before,” recalled Paula.

While Kim Gardner sadly passed away from cancer in 2001, the Cat has remained a family business with Paula and the couples’ three daughters running the show. For the Gardner sisters; Eva, Ashlee, and Camille, this is a natural extension of their growing up at the pub.

“We went to school across the street at Blessed Sacrament, right next to Crossroads of the World. I went there from first grade to eighth grade, so when we were old enough, we’d just walk across the street to the pub and do our homework,” says Ashlee Gardner.

“We’d always help the host do little tasks to keep us busy and not too loud.” In return, the Cat’s staff and regulars would help the girls with school projects and fundraisers. Ashlee has officially worked in one form or another at the Cat since she was 16, first starting as a hostess.

The Cat called the Sunset location home and was a Hollywood institution until they and the building’s other tenants were pushed out in a lease dispute in 2014. It wasn’t easy but the pub found a new home in 2017 where has nestled seamlessly into the neighborhood.

Of course, it’s not just the family element that maintains a sense of history at the Cat. The walls of the bar are covered in antiques purchased by the Gardner family on their many trips to England, and the Cat’s rock connection is still very strong.

Bands like Guns N’ Roses and the Pixies have held events at the Cat. While Morrisey has been known to drop by and play music from his personal playlists. “Morrisey isn’t a very animated person. When he’d be at the pub he’d be reserved, but he supports us a lot. At the end of his shows, he’d tell everyone he was going to the Cat and Fiddle and we’d get bombarded by people who were coming in,” says Ashlee. Rod Stewart once dropped in with his club soccer team; a friendly rival to Hollywood United, a club team sponsored by the Cat and founded by English rockers who frequented the bar. Keeping the music connection and tradition alive, Eva Gardner followed in her father’s footsteps and has served as a bassist for P!NK and Cher.

In fact, she’s the only woman with a signature Fender bass.

While some things have changed over the Cat’s 41 years, the cocktail menu has modernized and the pub recently introduced an afternoon tea, but much has stayed the same. It’s still the best place in Hollywood to grab a pint and a Scotch egg, and remains a humble watering hole for rockers and movie stars. At the heart of it all remains the Gardner family. Even though they all have business outside of the family pub, they’re maintaining Kim’s legacy. According to Ashlee, “During the holidays we had all four of us working; my mom and I, my twin sister, my older sister;” with Paula adding “and the kids and their dads.” While a certain chain restaurant claims that “when you’re here, you’re family,” at the Cat & Fiddle, that actually is true. DH